Dry Lake Memories
Hot Rod|March 2022
VINTAGE HOT ROD AND RACING PHOTOS FROM PREWAR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

On November 26, 1937, representatives from five amateur racing clubs gathered together and organized the present Southern California Timing Association. In almost a year of operation, it has experienced many ups and downs and plenty of hard knocks. This type of automobile racing, as sponsored by the Association, means nothing from the standpoint of profit to any individual whatsoever. Many long hours of hard work have gone into the preparations for these races, and the results have been very satisfactory.

—Wally Parks, Editor, SCTA Racing News program, October 2, 1938

That statement marked the beginning of amateur hot rod racing, when Wally Parks and hundreds like him with their “hot irons” became one under the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) banner. Their individual efforts were printed in the SCTA Racing News program, which one could purchase for 5 cents. They turned their energies into breaking records, not the law. Of course, street racing didn’t go away, but running for timing tags at the dry lakes— instead of speeding tickets on the boulevard— provided a more heralded desire.

It is fair to say that every hop-up that ventured across nature’s race courses before the war had a part in the history of hot rodding that will never be duplicated. A few went on to become legends during that time—like Ernie McAfee (responsible for earning more points than any other competitor in 1939), Karl Orr, Bob Rufi, and the Spalding brothers.

Yet, a remarkable 122 average-Joe racers entered the SCTA event at Harper Dry Lake (located near Barstow) on September 10, 1939. The well-known Ernie McAfee with the Road Runners was listed at the top of the entrants list in the program, and Glendale Ramblers member Arthur Male Jr. was listed last.

Sadly, time has faded the majority of those early racers from our memory. However, while Art Male only ran once in 1939 and teamed up with a fellow club member in 1940 to run again, his experiences can be shared. Thanks to Mr. Male for preserving a priceless pictorial record during the late ’30s and early ’40s. “I was the oldest of seven kids,” Art says. Born in 1918 in Hollywood, California, he says, “I took all of the shop classes that I could in high school. Glendale High had a machine shop where I attended night school. I could work on an engine, plane the head for more compression and such. I liked automobiles, especially how they were made and how to hop them up. Then I went to trade school to learn about carburetion and ignition.” That training would be of benefit to Art after the war. He worked for his best friend Hank Funk part-time, rebuilding aircraft generators and starters for the Douglas DC-3s.

“I joined SCTA in 1938, and Wally Parks was running it,” Art, president of the Ramblers, notes. “The clubs each worked on setting up the rules and regulations for SCTA. We met once a month at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. That’s the first time I met Wally. We would get together for SCTA meetings, which Wally conducted. I was a member of the Kings Men, and we later changed our name to Glendale Ramblers. When I was able to afford a car, I had a ’29 Model A soft-top coupe,” Art continues. “I purchased a Riley Two Port head, and put it on the reworked Model A engine. I went to Glendale High School, which had a machine shop with a milling machine. I shaved 1⁄16 inch off the head to raise the compression, and I had to change the combustion chamber to accommodate the larger exhaust valves with a large (Dremel) Moto-Tool.”

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